The Most Important Thing…

I attended a training class in which we were instructed to leave our egos in the trunk of our cars prior to class, and I have never heard this truth put more succinctly. Our egos are perhaps our greatest limitation in understanding ideas that are new to us or perhaps even understanding ideas more fully. I remember learning this quite well in my own experience. I was a brand new police officer and attending a training class on known risk traffic stops. I unknowingly made a mistake and at the conclusion of the scenario was being debriefed publicly by the instructor. He didn’t state that I made a mistake until he asked me why I did what I did. I realized at that point in time, while in front of several of my peers that I should have done something else, but in an attempt to save face I prepared an excuse. I don’t even know what measly excuse it was now, but I remember his response with crystal clear clarity. He called BS on me in front of my peers. Embarrassed, I got defensive, but I thought about that for a great deal afterwards. He was right, and in a meager attempt to make myself look better I discounted training that could quite literally save a human being’s life. This speaks to the heart of a person. What is your first response to correction? In our society today many have the response that I did in that training class. I was terribly wrong, and learned a valuable lesson that day. I learned how to learn. Many in our society have lost the tremendously valuable skills of self-perception and intrinsic change. Along the same lines, repentance is a word that has lost its meaning in our culture today. I think maybe it has lost its meaning because people don’t want to admit they are wrong, and would prefer to point out flaws in others. Jesus spoke well to this point in Matthew 7:3: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (ESV)

A great deal of people seem to think that Jesus was simply a nice guy while he walked on this earth, but you can’t reduce Him down to such a simple idea. Matthew records the beginning of Jesus’ preaching ministry in 4:17: “. . . Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (ESV) The idea of repentance is foremost in His thoughts when he began His preaching ministry. Repenting means to understand what you are doing is wrong in the eyes of God, understanding that you are subject to His desires over your life and changing your heart towards His precepts from your own. It is a turning away from what you think is right towards what God says is right and aligning with His will for your life.

The Old Testament is full of God’s judgment and some in recent times choose to call God a mean bully instead of understanding the purpose of the text. Think about buying a car that turns out to be a lemon. You bought the car with the purpose of having it serve a purpose. You need it to get to work, take the kids to soccer practice and things like that. When it no longer does what it should, because it leaves you on the side of the road, what do you do with it? Perhaps you repair it a few times, but there comes a time when you have had enough. It has not done what it was supposed to do too many times and you get rid of it. Never to be driven by you again. This idea aligns with what Jesus said in John 15:1-6. We read: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (ESV) Does this sound like a flowery, nice Jesus who is nice to everybody even if they don’t repent? No, the idea represented here is that God, the Father, will remove the branches that aren’t doing what they are supposed to do, and they are destroyed. The branches are the car that you bought that doesn’t run and the car is people who choose not to repent in the face of an Almighty God. It is wrong to believe that Jesus gives grace to all people. He gives grace to the ones who repent. All others are still under the confines of God’s judgment, and “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31 – ESV)

As we encounter the words of Jesus let us observe with clarity how He spoke with some people. As we hear Him speak to these Pharisees let us consider that this is the same Jesus that preached peace under God. I assert that their lack of repentance and self-righteousness caused His response. In Matthew 23:25-33 we read: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (ESV) The figures of speech here are tremendous. The cleaning of the outside of a plate and cup while the inside is filthy. The whitewashed outside of a tomb contrasted to the inside filled with death and rotting flesh. He is quite the talker here, and clearly judges these men by the appearance of their heart and not their outwardly appearance. These words should call us all to look into our own hearts for what God disapproves of and clean the inside of our own cups. The man who many people look to as a teacher of peace spoke clearly to men calling them a collection of venomous creatures that will not escape God’s judgment by living the way they are currently living. He is still the ultimate teacher of peace, but it is achieved through God’s way and not ours. He was not politically correct.

You were created for a purpose. You were fathomed by the infinite mind and formed into flesh and blood. You were purposely given breath by a God that loves you, and that demands you live your life according to His precepts. He demands your loyalty to Him, and will judge your opposition to Him. This is the message of Scripture. I ask you to look inside yourself against the back drop of God, and compare yourself to Him. Be true to yourself here. Look inside your innermost being closely. If you are honest with yourself, you will find fault because you are human. We all are.

The beauty of the cross is the fact that we have the inability to live our lives completely void of violating His wishes. This problem is the reason that Jesus came fulfilling the Old Testament prophesies. It was your sin that drove the nails into His hands. It was mine. We did not escape the judgment of God as Christians as it was still handed down from the God the Father. It just wasn’t handed down to us. Jesus stood between the Father and us when He rightly judged our sins. He placed His physical body between the wrath of a just God and us. This should speak volumes to men and women who place their lives on the line everyday for other people! He shed His blood on our account so that we might live as men and women who have been freed from the curse. This is the love for us that is represented so beautifully in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” A person can not live a life being their own god and expect to escape His wrath. You must believe in the person of Jesus Christ to the point that He changes you. The glory of God that is lacking in our lives is filled once again by God Himself. He desires you, and this is well attested by what He chose to do for you.

This is a call to action. It is rightly understood, Biblically speaking, that if you reject God now than you are not choosing not to make a choice. You are choosing to reject God. There is no middle ground. Many major religions have doctrines of exclusivity. That means that this one says it is the only way and the others are not real. To say that God is too big for any religion is to discount the teachings of the major religions themselves. It is an idea that if founded in our emotion. We can observe Jesus making this exclusive assertion in two ways. First is the reading of John 14:6 in Jesus’ words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (ESV) The second is His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His torture and execution on the cross as recorded in Mark 14:36. He asks the Father to remove this cup from Him, but consents to the Father’s will in accomplishing the task. The text does not include any other way given by God, and Jesus willingly, and quite literally, took up His cross and was nailed to it.

A relatively short summation is this. God created you. He loves you and wants to fill the void in your life. He wants to replace the sin that is hidden in the core of your being with His presence. He desires you to live free from His righteous judgment that must exist for Him to be a righteous judge. Sin is not committed in a vacuum. It hurts others that He created as well. He is calling you to turn away from being the God of your own life and allow Him to take His rightful place as your creator. If you have a funny feeling right now know that it is of God. It is His call for you to accept Jesus taking your judgment in your stead. If this is the case in your life, I want to encourage you to take the plunge out of darkness into light. Immerse yourself with the grandeur of our loving God. Speak to Him. Just say the words with your heart, and if you want to with your mouth. Tell Him that you believe He exists, and that He created you. Tell Him that you know that you have been living as your own god, and you now choose to live with Him as God. Ask Him for His grace to cover your violations of His law, and enjoy the feeling of true freedom that is caused by His goodness and not cheap human imitations.

It doesn’t stop there. It keeps going until the day that you leave this earth and pass into His presence. Find a good Bible believing church that teaches unity under Christ, and publicly profess your decision in the baptism waters. Jesus did this when He started His ministry, and it is a good idea to follow His lead. Study the Bible. Read commentaries on the Bible written by Christians. Learn more about your God and accept His call to service. Think about our lemon car again. He did not call you to sit and idle in the driveway and say a prayer that just acts as fire insurance for your eternal destiny. The car has wheels designed for movement, and He called you to serve Him. Speak with others about the change that has happened in your life. Stand firm on the Gospel that brings peace and unity under the God who loves us. Speak with kindness and love, but speak the necessary truths uncompromisingly. Find a knowledgeable person in the church and befriend them. Ask them questions. There is an absolutely tremendous amount of information organized by brilliant minds that support Christianity academically. Don’t check your mind at the door when you become a Christian. It is His mind and you should use it for His glory.

If this has helped you understand the truth of Christianity and commit your life to Him please share it! Also, please feel free to send me an email, and I will keep you in my prayers!

To my brothers and sisters,

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